Sarah and Jenny or Jenny and Sarah

When I was a little girl, I was the only kid on the block who did not have a grandmother or grandfather. All of my little friends had these folks who loved and adored them, but I did not. However, I pretended that my fatherís two sisters who had no children of their own were my grandmothers.

This is how I presented them to my friends. My friend Myra said that those two could not be my grandmoms because they lived together in a small apartment near our elementary school. After school I would walk with Myra to these auntsí apartment because my mom was working and she did not get home to about an hour after school let out. So Myra who lived near my two aunts and I would walk with each other at three fifteen oíclock p.m. When mom arrived home, she would come and pick me up and we would walk from Aunt Sarah and Aunt Jennyís where I had gone after school to our own home about six blocks away. One day a week, Mom shopped at a day old bakery to get baked goods and breads for the coming week at a discounted price. On that day, my brother Herbert who was five years older than me would come and pick me up at the two auntís house and he and I would walk to our home.

One day, Myra who was very out going and a little obnoxious deliberately tried to pry from me that these two oldsters were not my grandmother. Her rationale which was a very good one was that you cannot have two ladies living together to be my grandmothers.That was not normal or the norm. I insisted that Sarah and Jenny or as Myra like to refer to them as Jenny and Sarah were really related to me and surely were my grand mothers. Now Myra had two grandmothers, one in Baltimore,Maryland where we lived and one in Toronto, Canada where her dadís mom lived. So Myra had two grandmothers and they lived apart because they were not related to each, just to Myra.

 

I tried very hard to convince Myra that my story was an honest one and that they liked each so much that they lived with each other and knew each other because they shared a grandson-Herbert and a granddaughter Elita, me. I liked to write stories and reviews of childrenís novels in those days and I convinced Myra that my "story" of Sarah and Jenny or Jenny and Sarah was a true one and really a thing of convenience for the two old gals because neither had husbands and neither had lots of money. So therefore, by living together they had companionship, saved rent and electricity and heat and they shared me-their prized granddaughter and the love of their lives.

 

One day Myra said could she come with me and stay after school with me at their house because her mom had something to do and would not be home. I said yes and brought Myra into the apartment and introduced her to the two old ladies. Myra took one look at them and said " I bet you two are sisters. You look alike." I had not had time to warn the two "grandmothers" that Myra was suspicious of me and my story about them. Sarah who was the sweeter of the two and very gentle, I loved her so much for her gentleness with me realized that I must have told Myra a story on their relationship. She replied "oh that is funny; several times people have said we resemble each other.. How can that be since we are not related other than being Elitaís grandmoms." Myra looked at the old gal and in her knowing voice replied that surely their living together is really not the usual thing. Jenny piped in, she being the aggressive and stuck up personality of the two and said "my dear little girl, we are her grandmoms, I am her fatherís mother and this other lady is her momís mother..We live together because we cannot afford to live individually because our husbands have passed on and we have not much of an income and this is the best for us. Then seeing our beloved Elita every day is also a wonderful and happy time for us."

Myra looked quizzically at the two old gals (my father was about twenty years younger than these two older sisters) and said well o.k. this is unusual, but I guess it could be.

From that day on Myra never questioned my relationship as granddaughter to these two old ladies. One day, she said to me that she guesses I was lucky because when I visited them, I got a two for one visit and many times they would sew these satin pouches with a drawstring and insert pennies, about ten of them and give them to me to buy something that I would not normally have. I loved these two old gals and never forgot that they reassured Myra that Elita was telling the truth.

They both passed away within a few years of each other and when I had a little girl of my own, true to the Jewish religion of naming a baby after a beloved and deceased relative, I named my firstborn, a daughter-Sharon for Sarah and Joy for Jenny. I loved these two old "grandmothers" and so I honored them in this naming. When Sharon Joy was about six years old, Herbert, my brother asked me who I named her after and I told him this story. He was quite impressed how I remembered them and honored them so they would always be in my thoughts and heart.

So Myra, wherever you are, these many years later, this is the truth. Sarah and Jenny or Jenny and Sarah were really my beloved aunts. You were right, they were not my grandmothers, but I could not have loved them any more if they had been. They were my "GRAND (IN THE REAL SENSE) AUNTS. So Jenny and Sarah live on in my memory and in my daughterís name and even though Myra in her heart knew that she was right and that I was not telling the truth, she as a young girl could see the love these two old gals had for this youngster and she no longer questioned the story. She was wise enough in her young years to see that her friend, Elita loved these two old ladies and whether they were her grandmothers or aunts, that there was a true and loving bond between them and the young girl.

 

Elita Sohmer Clayman

November 2005